Africa recycles less than 0.1% e-waste

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 09 Jun 2020

The African continent recycles less than 0.1% of electronic waste (e-waste), according to data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

This comes to light just as the world marked the annual World Environment Day.

Africa’s e-waste challenges have long been documented, with the United Nations Environment Programme previously stating that instead of being recycled in the Western countries, the waste is being shipped to the continent where it accumulates in toxic dumps.

ITU data shows the continent’s e-waste recycling rate pales in comparison to other continents. For example, Asia is shown to recycle 11.07% of its e-waste, while the Americas recycles 9.4% of its e-waste.

As a result, the UN specialised agency has reiterated the Connect 2030 Agenda, which calls for the global e-waste recycling rate to increase 30% by 2023and the percentage of countries with e-waste legislation to be raised by 50%.

The ITU notes that while total collected and recycled e-waste was recorded at 20% in 2016, the rate declined to 17.4% in 2019.

“The growth in demand for connectivity is increasing the amount of e-waste generated. Our devices contain many valuable materials, often extracted at considerable human and financial cost. The global e-waste recycling rate was estimated to stand at only 20% of e-waste in 2016, despite rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high-value recoverable materials in many ICT devices and equipment. Consumers must become more aware of the carbon footprint and loss of valuable materials associated with the use of online apps and services.”

Joost de Kluijver, founder of e-waste collecting company Closing the Loop, which is an ITU member, reveals that of five factories that can recycle mobile phone e-waste, none are in Africa.

“For a continent with an explosive growth of the mobile industry, this creates a serious problem. Millions of phones become obsolete with no ways to recycle them,” states De Kluijver.

In terms of e-waste legislation, the ITU highlights that in 2017, 67 countries had e-waste legislation in place. “All countries should have national e-waste legislation and an action plan to deal with e-waste, listing their national goals and objectives in relation to e-waste and recycling, and how to go about protecting the environment and natural resources in the face of increasing scarcity of resources.”